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Taylor 'Silent Night' tradition to include governor

NOT SILENT STUDENTS: The Taylor University student body is shown during the annual men's basketball Silent Night game in 2017. The Trojans will host the 22nd-edition of the game Friday at 6 p.m. in Odle Arena.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

As traditions go, the Taylor University men's basketball Silent Night game is relatively young at 22 years of age. Yet, its stature seemingly grows with each passing year and brought national and international recognition to the school.

This year, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb will be part of the overflowing 2,200-strong crowd when Taylor (4-7) meets Grace Christian (10-5) at 6 p.m. Friday in Odle Arena. The Trojans have not lost any of the previous 21 Silent Night games.

For the uninitiated, the tradition began in 1997 as part of the Ivanhoes Classic, when in the Trojans' semifinal game students were asked to remain silent until the team scored its 10th point. Then utter bedlam breaks out with non-stop cheering and yelling for the rest of the game.

Taylor seniors Jake Heggeland and Evan Crowe each have scored the 10th point on Silent Night, which doesn't put them in the record book but does make them part of the game's lore. While there is notoriety, Heggeland said it's not something the Trojans players seek out.  

"There's no real competition for it and we try to look at it as just another basket," Heggeland said. "But, obviously, it's a cool situation."

Heggeland said he was able to prepare himself for what was to follow after he scored the 10th point on a free throw.

"The video from last year is kind of funny," he said. "I hit the thing and got the heck out of the way because everyone knows what is coming. I don't want to be caught up in that mess."

For Crowe, the eery silence that begins when students begin arriving 1 1/2 hours before game time and until the 10th point is unique in itself. It makes the yelling and screaming that commences afterward even more exhilarating.

"One thing I've noticed is when there's no talking at all you almost want to talk extra on the court," Crowe said. "It's so quiet you can here your voice on the court for the first time. And all those people are in the stands, yet you can hear yourself so clearly.

"I kid with Rick Johnson our (television announcer), 'hey, can't you quiet it down'. You can definitely hear those guys in the rafters," he added. "Then, when it happens, it gets super loud and that's probably one of the most fun parts to have all those people behind your back and you're playing for the community."

In just the last two years, Silent Night has become so huge that seating is only available for students, faculty and staff. Odle Arena has a 1,500 capacity and extra seats are brought in to accommodate the overflow crowd, but none are available to the general public.

Those unable to attend the game will be able to enjoy a free HD webcast provided by the Trojan Sports Network at www.youtube.com/TaylorAthletics, as well as through Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/TaylorTrojans. The stream will begin at approximately 4:15 pm, to allow viewers the opportunity to catch all of the pregame activity.

Fans in attendance will also have the opportunity to participate in the Silent Night Snapchat Our Story to be viewed by millions around the globe for the fourth straight year, while all fans are also encouraged to join the conversation and submit photos and videos to Twitter and Instagram by using #TUSilentNight.

Governor Holcomb received an invitation from Taylor University President Lowell Haines to attend, and a media outlet from Italy working on a series about American basketball also will be at the game. They will see first-hand the pageantry that goes into Silent Night including students in various costumes.

"It's a great week and fun thing for our students," Taylor athletic director Kyle Gould said. "We look forward to it every year and try to put on a good show for them."

Taylor coach Josh Andrews played in a Silent Night game as a Trojans player more than 15 years ago and said the game wasn't as big then as it has become today.

"It was so much different back then to what it is now," Andrews said. "It's an event to say the least. It's a special deal."

"Every year, it seems like we get a different news feature or a different social media outlet focusing on it," he added. "I know from recruiting for our university and our program there's all kind of players who have an understanding of our program because of the magnitude of this game and appeal. An event like this on a Friday night in December on a small college is so unique. It's such an honor and a special day."

Heggeland is from Wheaton, Illinois, near Chicago and was aware of the tradition before arriving on campus. His mother and aunt attended Taylor, and uncle Steve Wit was a standout for the Trojans in the mid-1990s.

 

"It's cool," Heggeland said. "It puts our little tiny school in Upland, Indiana on the map. I'll be walking around back home with a Taylor basketball shirt and people will say 'aren't you the Silent Night people'. I've had that happen on vacation in Florida. It's a well-known tradition and people love it."

Crowe plans to go into coaching in his native Ohio after graduation but hopes to return and watch Silent Night from a fans' perspective.

"I think I will try to make it back," Crowe said. "It's such a fun tradition and you realize there's nothing really like it."